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Capital City Sunday: Black leaders respond to protests, Rep. Robin Vos & VP Mike Pence

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MADISON (WKOW) -- From pain, to protests, to action. After days of demonstrations black leaders in the community breakdown what led up to these events, how we got here and what steps are needed to move forward.

Ruben Anthony, Jr., President & CEO of the Urban League of Greater Madison, said he was encouraged to see all different races, especially white people, putting their bodies on the line to participate in peaceful protests after the death of George Floyd.

"It's gaining momentum because these white people will not be like their parents, they want a better future and they want a different future," said Anthony.

When talking to people in the community about the Black Lives Matter movement, Anthony said it's important to have these conversations, but to make sure they don't expire.

"People want change, change in the criminal justice system, and change in the culture beyond just talking."

DR. ALEX GEE

Dr. Alex Gee is the Lead Pastor of Fountain of Life Covenant Church and a community leader in Madison. When discussing how we got here as a nation where racism still exists, he said it's because our country was built that way through certain laws such as slavery and voter suppression.

"People have been trained to think certain people are less intelligent, less capable, that we begin to carry out those laws that no longer exist, therefore we still associated things to skin color," said Dr. Gee.

To move forward toward reform, Dr. Gee said it starts with having more African American agendas and funding them to get them across the finish line.

"I'm hoping it will be different this time, but how many black people have to die before we change things?" said Dr. Gee.

Dr. Alex Gee also talks about his Black Like Me Live podcast and a conversation with a former white police officer. 

"I learned that he only had 40 hours of training... growing up with fears about black people. What's happening is we're not screening for that for people skewed perspectives of other folks."

ASSEMBLY SPEAKER ROBIN VOS

Protests across the nation are fueling legislative action in response to the death of George Floyd. In Wisconsin, Democrats and Governor Evers are attempting to pass police reforms but the chances of it gaining Republican support are slim.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) doesn’t believe additional reforms are necessary but is open to having the discussion.

“I think it was a photo-op or just a press release, he (Governor Evers) hasn’t really called and asked to work on this in a bipartisan way,” said Vos.

The Speaker also noted Wisconsin recently passed legislation to provide more transparency for police body cams and believes use of force policies in place are working. 

When asked how he believes the state will recover from the pandemic, Speaker Vos said the trend in positive cases declining is an uplifting sign towards refueling the economy. 

“The virus is still real and we still have to be careful, but we also can’t stop our entire economy because of that or we’re going to have a massive deficit,” said Vos. 

One area dealing with layoffs and academic cuts due to the impact of COVID-19 is the UW-System. UW-System President Ray Cross sent a letter to the governor and legislative leaders asking them to call a special session to provide financial relief to keep them afloat. 

Speaker Vos said he’s open to exploring ideas Cross is proposing, such as borrowing money, opening lines of credit and starting school earlier to avoid another wave of the virus.

“I’m open to those ideas but I want to make sure we do it right. There are other priorities out there, too. I want to make sure our economy rebounds as much as our universities and K-12 schools want to reopen,” he said.

VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE

The Vice President is echoing remarks from President Trump that justice will be served for the death of George Floyd, telling 27 News he is working with federal officials on exploring additional charges. 

"We're also in the process of working with federal officials and the justice department and examining whether civil rights claims will also be brought.” 

When asked if there could be a surge in new COVID-19 cases after thousands of people gather for demonstrations, Pence said it's been an issue brought up in White House Coronavirus Task Force meetings.

"We just encourage every American, whether it'd be those that would be engaged in peaceful protest, or those that are taking the opportunity to reopen their businesses, to continue to practice the good hygiene and social distancing."

Earlier in the week, the VP talked to 27 News about protests in Wisconsin and sending in the U.S. military to contain violence.

Emilee Fannon

Capital Bureau Chief

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